People wait in line to purchase a PlayStation 5 on Dec. 23, 2021. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

Optimistic residents bundled up and stood in line for the PlayStation 5 at GameStop on Mission at 23rd streets on this rainy Thursday morning, hoping to treat themselves and their families to a little extra fun for the holiday. 

Demetrice, who was nearing the front of the queue around 10:30 a.m., had been in line for about three hours, waiting to get the gaming console for her grandson. She had managed to get a slip of paper from an employee, giving customers dibs on one of the store’s 60 PlayStation 5 bundles, a package deal including accessories and games. By the time she showed it to me, it was ripped and wet. 

She called the experience tiresome and cold, but she wasn’t backing down: “Ready to go back in the house for a minute, get me some coffee, and go back out,” she said. 

Joel Uicab, 25, was in line with his 17-year-old cousin, and both were ready to drop $800 to buy themselves the console that has been in high demand and short supply for more than a year. Uicab said someone just happened to tell him that the GameStop store would be selling PS5s today, so he came out to try to get one. 

“I usually wait a little, until it’s not that expensive,” said Uicab, who also had a PlayStation 3 and 4. But this time is different, he said. “It’s just like, I’ve been wanting it for myself.” He brought his umbrella and his dog, and seemed unbothered by the rain. 

The line was a sight on Mission Street, with well over 50 people of all ages equipped with umbrellas, boots, and puffy coats standing patiently the day before Christmas Eve. 

The PS5 was released in November, 2020, but many have found it difficult to get their hands on the elusive console. Yesterday, GameStop, a gaming and electronics retailer, announced that it would have a limited supply available today in its stores around the country. The $800 “bundle” was offered to its paying members only. 

“It’s a scam,” said Miguel, 23. But scam or not, he and his friends were in line at 7 a.m. today, and had paid their $15 membership fees. “We won’t ever use it again,” he shrugged. 

By 11 a.m., the store at 2673 Mission St. had put up a sign on the doors saying it was sold out. Several people were still waiting at the back of the line, hopeful, many of them with no guarantee they wouldn’t go home empty-handed. 

One man named Marcus had only just arrived around 10:20 a.m., and was near the end of the line that wrapped around the corner onto 23rd Street. He expected to wait a couple hours just to find out whether he’d be able to buy a PS5 for his 11-year-old son, and knew he had “slim chances.” 

Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.

“I’ve been trying to get it for months, and just nobody has it,” Marcus said. “There’s nothing in stock anywhere online. Walmart, Target, even PlayStation Direct.” He even had his friends from out of state who work for Target tip him off on when the video game console would be available, but was never able to get one. 

His son has wanted a PS5 since last Christmas, and Marcus said his 13- and 14-year-old daughters told him not to worry about gifts for them, and to just make sure their younger brother got his gift from Santa. 

“He still believes in Santa, so we’re trying to keep that alive,” Marcus said. 

Eric Cordova, 38, said he was mainly in line for his sister-in-law, who was getting a PlayStation for her son. They had no umbrellas, and had been in line for more than two hours, but didn’t seem to mind; he got to stand under an awning when the rain was really coming down. 

“More than likely, if I can get the color that I want, I’ll keep it for myself,” said Cordova, a Daly City resident who grew up in the Mission. “If not, I might resell it.” 

Susan, who was prepared for the elements with tall rain boots, a bright pink raincoat, and a large umbrella, thought the PlayStation 5 was worth the hype and enduring the weather. She planned to buy a console for her three children for Christmas. 

“They wanted it last year, so it’ll be a big surprise,” she said. “They don’t think that I would wait two hours in line for them.” 

Not everyone who left the line without a PS5 wound up empty-handed, however. One woman trying to buy fish for an Italian Christmas dinner stood in the GameStop queue for several minutes before realizing the line for Sun Fat Seafood Co. next door was just parallel — and far shorter.

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Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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